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The statistics are staggering. Last year, more than 490,000 identity theft complaints were made to the Federal Trade Commission. Florida had the third most of any state. Victims of identity theft can come from any lifestyle regardless of race, gender, age or socioeconomic status.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity Theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain.

In today's world, so heavy with the use of digital information, it is essential that you protect yourself from becoming a victim of this crime.


Types of Identity Theft

There are several "types" of ID theft. Each one affects certain areas of our lives, and has specific things to keep in mind when trying to deal with it.

Financial Identity Theft

This is the most common type of identity theft. It involves using another person's identity to obtain credit, goods and services.

Identity Cloning

This is when someone impersonates someone else in oder to conceal their own true identity. Examples might be illegal immigrants, people hiding from creditors or other individuals, or those who simply want to become "anonymous" for personal reasons.

Medical Identity Theft

Occurs when someone uses a another person's name or other parts of their identity—such as insurance information—to obtain medical services or goods, such as drugs. This is a particularly dangerous type of identity theft because it could lead to erroneous entries being put into your existing medical records, which may in turn lead to improper and potentially life-threatening decisions by medical staff.

Criminal Identity Theft

This is posing as another person when apprehended for a crime. It can be very difficult to clear your name of such theft. Victims might only learn of such incidents by chance (receiving a court summons, driver's license suddenly suspended, background checks performed by potential employers).

Synthetic Identity Theft

A variation that is becoming more common. It involves taking parts of identity information from more than one victim and combining them. The most common technique involves combining a social security number from one person with the name and birthdate of another person. Because it involves more than one victim, this type of identity theft can be very difficult to track.

Child Identity Theft

This occurs when a minor's Social Security number is used by another person. The Social Security numbers of children are particularly valued by identity theives because they do not have any information associated with them. Theives can establish lines of credit, obtain driver's licenses, or even buy a house using a child's identity. Many children victimized by this crime do not discover it until years later. This type of identity theft is fairly commmon and the problem appears to be growing. Sadly, the thief in these cases is almost always a family member or close friend.


How to Deter Identity Theft

Here are a few tips to help you guard against identity theft:

  1. Always shred paperwork and financial documents with personal information instead of just tossing them in the trash.
  2. Don't carry your Social Security Card in your wallet.
  3. Don't write or have your Social Security number printed on your check.
  4. Provide your Social Security number only if absolutely necessary and request to use another identifier.
  5. Don't provide personal or credit card information on the phone, over the Internet, and through the mail unless you know who you are dealing with.
  6. Do not click links sent in unsolicited e-mails or provide personal information in response to unsolicited e-mails from unfamiliar sources.
  7. Never use an obvious password, such as your mother's maiden name, your birth date, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  8. Always keep your personal information in a secure place at home.

If You are a Victim of Identity Theft

If you are a victim of identity theft or you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft, you should take the following actions immediately, and as you do, be sure you document every action by keeping good notes and records of all correspondence and conversations you have with your financial institutions and law enforcement agencies:

1. Report the Identity Theft to the Three Major Credit Bureaus

Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file.

  • Equifax
  • P.O. Box 105069
  • Atlanta, GA 30348
  • 800.525.6285
  • Trans Union
  • P.O. Box 1000
  • Chester, PA 19016-1000
  • 800.680.7289

2. File a Report with the Police Where the Identity Theft Occurred

Be sure you get a copy of the report for your records. Credit card companies and financial institutions may require you to show a copy of this report to verify the crime. Keep the phone number of your police investigator and provide it to creditors and others who require verificiation of your case.

3. Contact All of Your Creditors & Any Financial Institutions You Use

If you suspect any of your financial accounts have been fraudlently accessed, contact the respective financial institution, and if necessary, ask to change the account number or close the account. Ask to confirm your contact with the financial institution in writing. Carefully monitor your mail and credit card bills and report immediately any new fradulent activity.

4. Notify Your State Attorney General's Office

Florida's Attorney General provides a toll-free fraud hotline for Floridians who are the victims of Fraud. Contact the hotline at 1.866.9.NO.SCAM (1.866.966.7226). Trained advocates can help provide additional resource information in your area.

Victims of identity theft should review Florida's Identity Theft Victim Kit, an all-in-one resource on the Florida Attorney General's web site that provides victims with specific instructions for filing a police report and beginning to clear their names.

5. Notify the State Deparment of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

Driver license fraud includes the use of another person's identity to obtain a driver license or identification card by a person or for a person who is not eligible for issuance of such a document.

In Florida, the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) has set up an e-mail address for the reporting of suspected criminal activity. DHSMV customers can e-mail a request for a fraud investigation to: Fraud@flhsmv.gov. Fraudulent activity also may be reported by phone to 850.617.2405. When reporting a suspected driver license fraud, please try to include the victim's name, date of birth, driver license or identification card number, social security number, and contact information. For more information, visit the Florida DHSMV ID Theft page.

6. Check with Your Postmaster for a Fraudulent Address Change

If you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the Post Office, or has used your mail to commit fraud, call the U.S. Post Office, 800.275.8777, to obtain the phone number for your local Postal Inspector. Notify the local Postmaster about the fraud. If you obtain the fraudulent address, request to have all mail in your name forwarded from the fraudulent address to your correct address.

7. Contact the Social Security Administration

If you suspect someone else is using your Social Security number, you should contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1.800.772.1213 (TTY 1.800.325.0778) to report the problem. The SSA will review your earnings with you to ensure your records are correct.

You also may review earnings posted to your record on your Social Security Statement (Form SSA-7005). This Statement is mailed automatically each year to workers age 25 and older. You also can get a copy of this Statement at any time by requesting one online or by calling 1.800.772.1213 (TTY 1.800.325.0778).

8. Seek Legal Advice

You may want to consult a lawyer to determine any legal action you may take, particularly if you find creditors and/or credit bureaus are not cooperating in removing fraudulent entries from your credit report. Call the local Bar Association or Legal Aid office to find an attorney who specializes in consumer law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Fair Credit Billing Act.


Additional Identity Theft Resources

AnnualCreditReport.com

http://www.annualcreditreport.com/

This central site allows you to request a free credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Federal Trade Commission

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

877.ID.THEFT or 877.438.4338

The Federal Trade Commission website provides information to "deter, detect, and defend" against identity theft. The website also provides helpful links for victims of identity theft.

Identity Theft Protection Reviews

For comparison and reviews of several ID protection services, visit Best Identity Theft Protection Service Reviews

Postal Inspection Service

www.usps.com/postalinspectors/